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Dozens Turn Out For Detention Center Protest In Columbia

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia
Dozens of protesters lined the sidewalk outside Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler's office.

Around 100 people gathered outside Missouri congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s office in Columbia Tuesday afternoon, to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which she has supported.

Dozens of protesters filled the sidewalk and parking lot outside congresswoman Hartzler’s office at noon, demanding an end to family detentions at the southern border.

Speaking through a bullhorn, demonstrators condemned Hartzler’s vote last week in favor of a multi-billion dollar border spending bill. They called for her to close the camps instead.

Organizer Kate Watson said her work with children in the foster care system pushed her to coordinate the event. "I understand the impact that trauma has on children and on families and it’s concerning the damage that we’re doing to children and families," Watson said.

Other speakers included Kari Chesney, who is running for state house in the 50th district as a Democrat. Chesney said she initially planned on attending the event to protest, before Watson invited her to speak, and said she was pleased with the turnout. 

Hartzler’s press secretary Steve Walsh brought small groups of protesters, including Chesney, into the office for closed door meetings, although the congresswoman was not present. Walsh highlighted what he called the humanitarian aid portion of the spending bill and said the protesters were within their rights. "People have a right to come and protest, we accept that, we talk to them, we listen to them and we share their concerns, their thoughts with the congresswoman and we will continue to do that," Walsh said."

The protesters ultimately dispersed after Columbia Police asked them to move to the street, on the request of the property’s landlord.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia was a health reporter at KBIA and is documentary filmmaker who focuses on access to care in rural and immigrant communities. A native Spanish speaker and lifelong Missouri resident, Sebastián is interested in the often overlooked and under-covered world of immigrant life in the rural midwest. He has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. Aside from public health, his other interests include conservation, climate change and ecology.